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Omar Rodriguez Lopez has a reputation of being somewhat of a creative dictator. He wrote every note of music for his successful progressive-rock project The Mars Volta, often alienating the other musicians who had no room for any creative input whatsoever.
Following that band’s hiatus beginning in September 2012, Rodrigeuz-Lopez took the eventual members of Bosnian Rainbows on tour as an incarnation of his Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group. The hiatus of his former group eventually became a complete disbanding. Pleased with the tour and perhaps changed by the demise of his main creative focus, Rodriguez-Lopez turned this group of musicians into a full-fledged band with a democratic approach.
The self-titled Bosnian Rainbows is the result of the quartet’s collaborations. The eleven-song album displays a vast number of influences while managing to have a sound all its own. Filled with eerie synth tones, propulsive drumming, impassioned vocals and biting guitar, Bosnian Rainbows showcases the talents of all four members, never feeling like just another project from Rodriguez-Lopez.
Not easily categorized, the album is a collection of relatively tight, catchy songs produced in a wash of delay and eerie atmosphere. The music is often very dynamic, with moments of both delicate beauty and aggressive rock. On top of it all, vocalist Terri Gender Bender (real name Teresa Suarez) croons, purrs and roars with an aggressive confidence that demands attention.
The opener “Eli” serves as a fitting introduction for the band. Fading in slowly with swelling synths and cymbal hits, the song builds as drums and synth-bass come in, eventually culminating in a bombastic and catchy chorus that doesn’t reveal itself until more than halfway through. The song’s outro finds the band powering through the chorus as Suarez howls over-the-top in a sea of reverb and delay.
Much of the album has a very danceable quality to it. “Worthless”, “Morning Sickness” and the first single “Torn Maps” all feature sections that could fit right in at a club. Many of the synth tones give off an 80’s vibe, but without ever getting too corny. The synthesizer-heavy sound should come as no surprise since Rodriguez-Lopez, drummer Deantoni Parks, and main keys player Nicci Kasper all are credited with tickling the ivories.
Many other genre influences show up throughout. The scratchy guitar of “Dig Right in Me” recalls vintage funk, punk rock informs both “I Cry for You” and “Always on the Run”, and “The Eye Fell in Love” and “Red” hint at prog-rock. Electronic music also seems to bleed through in many of the tracks. “Mother, Father, Set Us Free” includes a break in which Suarez’s vocals are processed, looped and sampled over a building beat, and throughout the album Deantoni Park’s syncopated and tight style could occasionally be mistaken for a drum machine.
The aforementioned “Torn Maps” is one of several songs on the album with an infectiously catchy chorus. Despite the thick production layers, most of these songs are quite poppy at their core. The memorable hooks that are present throughout are a definite strong point of the music.
It’s hard to listen to Bosnian Rainbows without wanting to compare it to The Mars Volta, but this new band really does stand on its own as a completely different and new entity. Fans of Rodriguez-Lopez’s playing will have fun hearing his unique, identifiable guitar work in this new context. In contrast to his sometimes meandering, extended solos with that group, his playing mainly serves the songs in this framework. Nevertheless, he manages to squeeze in some excellent effect-drenched solos and licks, as well as creative rhythm work. “Turtle Neck” features all of the above, with a beautiful delay soaked chord progression leading into a heavy synth and guitar riff which Rodriguez-Lopez takes a short but effective lead over.
Bosnian Rainbows is an interesting collection of well-written songs with a heavily-produced sound that reveals more with each listening. Fans of The Mars Volta’s intense progressive-rock sound may be perplexed by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s new band, but it is great to hear him not only trying something different, but also working with others in a more collaborative setting.
Written by Wib Schneider
OurVinyl | Contributor